Interview with Jennifer Levine, Fall 2021

Jennifer Levine
Jennifer Levine, portrait by Ariel Cooper

Interview by Ariel Cooper, Printmaking MFA
with Jennifer Levine, Painting and Drawing MFA Candidate

What is your name and pronouns? 

My name is Jennifer Levine.  My pronouns are she/her/hers.

What is your age and major?

I’m 54. I am an MFA in Painting and Drawing. 

Where are you from? 

I’m from New York City.

What types of hobbies or activities are you interested in? 

Besides painting, I do a lot of bike riding. Painting and bike riding. And reading. 

Has campus made you feel welcome as an older woman or as a Jewish woman? 

I definitely feel welcome as an older woman. I was really worried that I would feel out of it, coming back to school after all these years, but I feel really, really welcome as an older woman. On the other hand, as a Jewish woman, I don’t feel great. The school didn’t close for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. That was so wrong. We don’t need both. Well, we do need both, but at least Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah. One of them. I’m very annoyed about that!

How does the community here at New Paltz differ from your home?  

Well, I live in New Paltz now. Compared to Montclair, where I was living previously, I would say it’s much more friendly. Super friendly! People are so polite. New Paltz, the campus has such a sweet and welcoming energy.

What personal journey brought you to your current role? 

I was always interested in the creative life but I never explored it too seriously. I worked in education as a teacher and a school principal while doing creative things on the side. I was a puppeteer for many decades. Then, I realized, I liked making the things more than performing. So then, I started painting. I painted for about 10 years. Then I thought it would be nice to be in a painting community. To have some skilled people I could learn from and develop my skills.

What issues or challenges are you confronted with? 

I think aging is a big one for me. My daughter just left for college, and I moved in with my partner. 

And having a balanced life of purpose. Getting priorities straight in terms of being a good mother, a good daughter, a good citizen. Just trying at the end of my day to say, “Ah, I did it right.” And being able to rest my head on the pillow.

What are your most important sources of success and change? 

 I think being true to my path as a creative person and always supporting myself. I took a lot of jobs that I wasn’t thrilled about. I really struggled but I always knew that I wanted to pursue a creative life. And I did that, have done that, and continue to do that. So that and raising my daughter, who is awesome. I really never thought I was going to be a mother. I never wanted to be a mother. I was married to someone who really wanted a child. Having my daughter ended up being one of the best things in my life. 

Who else needs to be pulled into the conversation?  

When they’re making a calendar, bringing in the Jewish studies department would be a good idea. I don’t know how much of a relationship they have with the local schools but because I’m in education I would be curious about that.

Interview by Ariel Cooper, Printmaking MFA Candidate as part of a collaborative Interview Book Project in ARS 331 Photo Books and Installations.

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